Have you come to a point in your life where the pursuits of your younger years no longer seem meaningful or satisfying? Maybe it’s time for you to transition from the first half of your life to the second.
My guest today has spent decades helping people, particularly men, make this passage. His name is James Hollis and he’s a Jungian analyst and the author of over a dozen books, including Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life. We begin our conversation with a brief overview of what makes Jungian or depth psychology unique, and how it helps individuals find meaning and deal with life’s existential questions. Our discussion then explores the differences between the first and second halves of life, and how the main question of the first is “What is the world asking of me?” while the primary question of the second is “What is my soul asking of me?” Jim explains why you need to sort through the influences of your family and culture on who you’ve become and how the second half of life is about finding personal authority and sovereignty. We also discuss why the first half of life is always “a gigantic, unavoidable mistake,” and why that’s okay.
Jim explains what triggers the impetus to move from the first to the second half of life, how it can happen at any age, how to make the transition from one phase to the other, and why the journey to the second can be terrifying because it lacks the structure of the first. Jim describes the internal systems you can use for guidance in moving forward in the absence of this external structure. He then gets into the importance of continuing to grow in your profession or marriage throughout your life. We discuss the particular reasons men can get stuck in the first half of life, and how men are more free to tend to the needs of their souls these days, but can still feel adrift. We end our conversation with how you can know if you’re on the right track in pursuing the tasks of the second half of life.
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- A primer on Carl Jung’s psychology
- The symptoms of existential crises
- The typical agenda for the first half of life (and why it’s usually so necessary)
- What are “complexes”? How do they influence the first half of life?
- What Siddhartha can teach us about life
- Is there always an event that draws us into the second half of life?
- Why you shouldn’t ignore your feelings
- Paying attention to your dreams
- Is happiness the goal of life?
- Making later-life career transitions
- Can a couple evolve together in the same direction?
- Men and meaning
- How men get too dependent on sex, food, substances, and success
- How do you know if you’re on the right path in life?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- How to Find Your Calling in Life
- AoM series on male depression
- Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsesses With Happiness
- How to Find Your Life’s Purpose
- Sources of Existential Angst
- The Journey to the Second Half of Life
- The Quest for a Moral Life
- Self, Soul, and Living a More Idealistic Life
- Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts
- The Seasons of a Man’s Life
- The Middle Passage
- Under Saturn’s Shadow
- Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
- The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy
- Henry Moore
- Begin With the End in Mind
- Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm
- Figuring Out if You Should Change Careers
Connect With James
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Read the Transcript